I heard Ethernet inventor Robert M. Metcalfe this week speak about energy at the Lux Executive Summit on energy. I disagreed with much of what he to say although I know Bob is a very smart and accomplished guy. No doubt, he would stand tall in the networking and Internet Hall of Fame if there was one.
The generalization that put me off the most was his comment that corporate and government labs are “marginal” in terms of output. Then he dinged the Dept. of Energy for not resolving our energy problems. The guy sitting next to me had spent 28 years with DOE and was now working for an organization promoting solar. It didn’t sit well with him either. “Platitudes,” he muttered.
Metcalfe believes students, professors backed with venture capital is the best combination of elements that will come up with the answers to our energy problems. There’s no law against self-serving statements, but it should be noted that Metcalfe is a VC and a “Life Member” of the MIT Corporation Board. Indeed, an immense amount of innovation has sprung from VC, students, professors and MIT. At the same time, IBM Research, a corporate lab to be sure and long run by a one-time monopoly, has been one of the most if not THE most singularly productive research organizations ever.
My dealings with DOE and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory have usually been productive. Just the fact we have a Dept. of Energy intelligently doling out grants to STUDENTS and PROFESSORS at universities like Metcalfe’s MIT is a good thing. Indeed, he forgot to mention the deep partnership worth billions between the government and universities. Casting off DOE as unproductive money pit was a touch cavalier.
My takeaway from Metcalfe’s talk was that he believes in letting the free market resolve our energy problems. The free market is a stinking mess right now because it was neither watched nor monitored or intelligently regulated. A lot of people are suffering as a result.
He is pleased with a nuclear industry waking up from two decades of slumber and said global warming is little more than a “bubble.” I wasn’t quite sure he if thinks global warming is a problem or not, but the intimation was it isn’t. But I agree with his claim that resolving global warming does not necessarily mean we are out of the woods on energy. No doubt, our energy needs are rapidly expanding every year.
More than ever, we need straight talk now about energy. I know I dinged T. Boone Pickens in another blog post, but that’s just because no one from the media can get an interview with him. But he is giving us as much straight talk about energy self-determination movement as any one human being.
Metcalfe also thinks the color for renewable shouldn’t be green so it isn’t associated with environmental movements or worse, hippies or people far to the left. It should be blue for reasons I don’t entirely understand. And he has advocated that we apply lessons of the Internet to finding energy solutions under the banner of the “Enernet.” It sounds good, but I honestly question how much substance there is to the notion.
Like I said, we need straight talk about energy.